McCain’s Favorite Poem, Defending Chess Tables, and 1968

Photo by George W. Ackerman

How Civil Must America Be? Americans care about being nice. How do we disagree with our neighbors about guns?” Jacqui Shine visits Grinnell, Iowa, home to a liberal arts college, lots of farmers, and one of the largest gun stores in the nation. This is a fascinating story, not least for what it reveals about the role that Facebook has played in intensifying some of the community’s disagreements. Keep an eye out for our story next week on how Facebook affects local politics.

Reagan, McCain, and Sam McGee.” There have been many stories told about John McCain this past week, but my favorite story about him comes from this old essay by Andrew Ferguson. During the 2000 presidential primary, McCain revealed which poem he memorized while in a Vietnam prison: “The guy in the cell next to me . . . used to tap it to me on the wall, in Morse Code. That’s how I memorized it.”

Our Civic Institutions Are Self-Destructing.” Gracy Olmstead notes the fragmentation of our cultural and civic institutions, but she argues these associations are necessary and urges us to continue investing in them despite the temptation to abandon them.

War in the Heaven of Our Minds.” Micah Meadowcroft reviews Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf and urges a renewed commitment to the reading of physical books and the practices of attention such reading cultivates.

New York City: The Last Conservative Place Left.” James McElroy narrates how a community of New Yorkers eventually defeated their property manager’s plan to replace chess tables—where Pete the Chess Guy held sway each summer—with vending machines.

And, to whet your appetite for our conference next month, here are two stories reflecting on the events and legacy of 1968.

1968 Protests at Columbia University Called Attention to ‘Gym Crow’ and Got Worldwide Attention.” Stefan M. Bradley describes what happened when Columbia University tried to build a new gymnasium on a park adjacent to a working-class black neighborhood.

Will We Ever Escape 1968?” E. J. Dionne reflects on the political schisms that opened in 1968 and that continue to define the contours of many of our political battles.

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